The first thing REBT theory and therapy suggests is that you fully accept yourself as a person despite having a tendency to avoid social interactions due to anxiety. Putting yourself down, seeing yourself as worthless, seeing yourself as inferior will not help you solve your problem of anxiety. You can acknowledge the problem but simultaneously accept yourself as a fallible human. Fallible humans have all sorts of physical problems and emotional problems. Having problems is proof you are human not that you are inferior. You can choose not to define yourself as less good, less worthwhile or inferior despite having social anxiety.
The next thing to do is see that your social anxiety is rooted in how you think about rejection and approval. Rejection by people you try to make friends with and socialize with is bad. No human likes to be rejected. However, you can define rejection as awful and unbearable or you can help yourself immensely by defining rejection as bad and unpleasant but very bearable. Rejection will be easier to bear if you do not put yourself down as a human for being rejected. You never “have to be” everyone’s cup of tea! If you think sensibly about social affairs you will see that others have a perfect right to reject your overture to be friends or to socialize. When others reject you that is unpleasant and you have a prefect right to dislike this but they have a perfect right to reject you. Accept you with the rejection and also accept those who have rejected you. See that you do not “need” the acceptance of a particular person although you very much want it. Keep your healthy desire for acceptance and then find people who will enjoy your company.
The only way you will continue to take risks and attempt to make friends with others is if you think sensibly about rejection and your self-worth when you are rejected. Your worth as a person, to yourself is never diminished by rejection. We in REBT teach that you have worth because you are alive and acceptance by others does not increase your worth as a person nor does rejection diminish your worth as a person.
Overcoming shyness and introversion takes thinking rationally plus forceful action. If you want to experience the pleasure of friendships and overcome your shyness you will have to force yourself to take some risks and strike up a conversation with another person. You will have to force yourself to propose a coffee date, a dinner date, an outing, or a romantically oriented date. The only way you learn to tolerate rejection is to risk rejection. This is never a comfortable process but if you think sensibly about the process you can overcome your fear of rejection. Tell yourself forcefully that rejection is bad and uncomfortable but far from the end of the world. Tell yourself forcefully that you want a particular person’s approval but you never need a particular person’s approval to accept yourself. You have worth even when your overtures are rejected. Then keep taking risks and you will see that if you collect enough rejections you will teach yourself to be resilient and gracefully tolerate them. You still will not like rejection but you will learn not to let it stop you from attempting to connect with people you might like. Soon you will see that risking rejection is the only path to friendships. It is by trying to make connections with others and risking rejection and tolerating rejection that you discover who likes your company and wishes to spend time with you. You can stand rejection so please strive to convince yourself of this.
If you would like to schedule an appointment with Dr. Matweychuk to see how Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy can help you overcome your personal problems call 646.666.3108 or send an email to DrM@alumni.upenn.edu